My experience with Demola and Anna

My name is Samuel Blanco, I was an exchange student at Finland wishing for acquisition of new knowledge and adventures. I was not disappointed.
One thing that made my whole trip a great learning experience and gave me more stories and great moments to add into the exchange experience was the Demola Project, I arrived to Tampere hopping for the best, decided to study new fields, with eager to see how the was educational system of the so acclaimed country of Finland, if it was truly as amazing as people i know tend to say. Once again i was not disappointed.


I found Demola during the first day at school, a project between an external client and students, end the university ends up giving you credits for it, I applied to 3 projects, the process was really satisfying, the have a really robust and well done software system for the appliance, and it is also really intuitive, i had no trouble making my choices from the portfolio of projects they had, and they are well defined what kind of attributes they seek in each one of the possible members for the project, in my case i applied to the technology stack, mainly programming.

At the end of the day i was accepted in, “Anna, the kindest game ever”.


How did it go?

The team i was put into was great, we were 2 programmers, we had a girl majoring in management, another girl and a guy majoring in marketing and one that had experience with crowd-sourcing, so the project team was well balanced, one designer would have fit just perfectly, since we wanted to do a gamified experience it could have been of great help, but still all were really capable of working and really enthusiastic.


Work was not balanced –

Even that we all were really capable students, the matter on the project was a little bit inclined into the Tech Spec, so me and Mika, the other guy with programming experience, had way more work to do than the other team members, not because the others were not doing their job, but simply the project requires more of the technical part, than the other part, one more team member in the tech Stack would have been perfect.


We are students –

A factor that had a lot of consequences on the final result was the fact that we are students, we have school task, part jobs and some of us many other activities. Of course this is part of the experience, and Demola is designed around the fact that they want to connect companies, and entrepreneurs with the talent and new ideas of young students,  but the final result cannot be compared to that of a professional company, but still i think the work done was pretty good as a proof of concept, it also works as an idea validator, it wasn’t a scalable prototype, but we proved a point, and realized what should be changed, what should be kept, and what should be removed.


Some Problems –

Something really bad happened along the way, my computer broke, the motherboard burned, and for a week i had no computer to work on, not only that but sending it back to america for the warranty was not an option, luckily one friend had a laptop that i could do a little work on, and all my code was on Github( backup ) so i could easily get back to where i left, also Demola was amazingly kind by lending me a laptop, to keep working on, they had really good equipment and it was actually the best solution.




The Process –

The process we followed has good design, with really good checkpoints around the way, meetings with the supervisor, the client and a professor, to check on how the project is going to continue along the semester, and check the factibility of completion or define well structured deliverables, one think that should be noted is that at the beginning we decided the process that we would follow as a team, client and project supervisor, this was excellent, so this way we all could be in the same page and decide together what can work for everyone. As my personal point of view, i think that it would be better if demola had already defined a well structure communication and planning framework that can be modified o tweaked to the necessities of each team, with a set of 1 or 2 recommended tools for us to use, the main tool that i found that worked the most was email, and slack, but other tools some time fell to the backbox. Surely it would get rid of a lot of misconceptions that might come along, or missing parts that could exist in the team’s process.    


The Product –

Beginning the project we had a lot of freedom on what we were going to implement, our client simply gave us an idea, a gamified experience on crowdsourcing for charity, the idea is amazing, and really viable, but the solution can come in many factors, Web Application (Our approach), Mobile App, API that other apps can integrate to, are som that come to my mind, and the client might have some in advance, our approach was not the correct one, but at least we proved that it wasn’t, and i think that our client was not satisfied because we didn’t accomplish what he wanted. That could have been pre-thought or he could have that in mind if on first instance we had established that we were going to make a Proof Of Concept for a Web Application. And that the main objective was to check  the viability of the demo, and if it had potential, and had established that the final result was not a prototype to build upon. That way I am sure that the Client would be more happy with the results.


End Result –

The end result was not bad, but still it wasn’t complete, we had great ideas on mind, making a web application for the API to work upon, so we could integrate it latter to other platforms and scale it more easily, but one thing that kept on happening were, ideas, yeah it might sound a bit cheesy but ideas kept on coming and coming one after the other, so we did not have a concrete path to follow, we were designing for something, and then another idea that sounded better or was really “cool” to have in the app appeared, and the path changed direction, we had to rethink everything we had to include the new idea, so something that originally was a website, became into a API, and then into a videogame, and so and so, the idea started to become more and more complex for everyone to follow the same page, and be on sync on what was happening, at the end it was not possible.

I think that establishing a simple but concrete idea is better, there is a zen word for this “KISS”, Keep It Simple Stupid, it might sound aggressive or offensive but is the truth, keep a simple idea, finish it, then build upon it, if we had established what we were going to develop in the first time, in a simple manner, that could be understood what the checkpoints where going to be and what the deliverables were going contain, we could have ended with a result that was both, solid and valuable for the client.

In summary Demola was amazing, don’t get me wrong here, it has its perks, they have room to improve, mainly on defining well structured process for the students, and a little bit better management would come in handy, but still what they are doing is just great, they are incorporating the students with the passion and the talent to innovate into solving some real world problems, they can accomplish amazing things when they have a well defined Goal, and the tool to support them. If you asked me if i would do it again?, i’d say definitely, no doubt about it. Tanks for reading

– Samuel

Great things after great things!

The past few weeks have been super weeks for Anna Community as we have updated our landing page, based on the valuable feedback we got from our possible future users! Besides that we have made our final pitch and were chosen to be one of the 5 best pitches of Demola spring 2016! Wohooo!

First, the landing page. We heard that our green landing page with fields and stuff was reminding too much an environmental charity page so we decided that it had to be changed. And since we want to be a gamified online charity, why not make the landing page more gamified too? Here is our new page, with the new awesome logo! What do you think?



Our final pitch was carefully planned by our leader Elisa, with help and guidance from the rest of the team. We made some changes to our successful mid-pitch but kept some elements the same, like the tsunami story (why change something that’s working!). We got some great feedback in the final pitching event which is going to be valuable for us because Anna Community will also be present in New Factory Open on May 26th!


So Demola spring is almost at end, but the final challenge will be next Thursday’s NFO event! Can’t wait! And more about that later…!


Mid-Pitching At New Factory


In order to get ourselves prepared for the final pitching, Demola arrange mid-pitching event at the New Factory for all the teams. This was the time when we had to impress the audience to show what we have been doing and showcase our results.

This was not an easy task since we had to merge all our work at a single place. We had to brainstorm on how to convey our message to the audience and to impress them. The mid pitching event was set to take place on 14th of April 2016. All of us scheduled a meeting to meet on the Monday 18th of April 2016. There we discuss our plan on how to prepare for our presentation, what things to pitch, what to include and what not to. Furthermore, we also decided upon the person who will be pitching in front of the audience.


The moment we all have been waiting for eventually arrived. Our team was scheduled to pitch in the batch 2 that started at 15:30. All of us were feeling anxious as we sat there and watched all the other teams pitching before us and receiving feedback. The most tensed person among all of us was our Project Manager Elisa as she was chosen to give the pitch. Finally the moment arrived and Elisa was present at the stage all set to make a pitch. She started off brilliantly with a story about a fisherman getting affected by a tsunami and relating it to the audience. Those 3 minutes of pitching were crucial but in the end everything went of smooth and we were given a positive and constructive feedback. This helped us reflect on our project and to further improve it for the final pitching event. In the end combination of teamwork, plenty of meetings and hard work paid off. Thanks to everyone who helped us directly and indirectly in achieving our goal and make Anna Community to this point.

Ready… steady… LAUNCH!!

30th March was a historical day for Anna Community (and, as we can see in the future, for online charity as a whole!). The landing page for our web portal, Anna Community  went viral and we published our first tweet about the project. The landing page wasn’t designed in a day but it required cooperation and input from all of the team members, and the final version was a result of this brainstorming. But it is not set in stone: we are changing it as we go and all feedback is more than welcome!


A sneak peek of our landing page! Check it out on 

On the landing page we integrated our social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter and a possibility to subscribe to our newsletter. So far so good! Now, one of the biggest challenges for us will be community building – how to make people join our community and follow us on social media? We will need to focus on creating and posting interesting content on our social media channels and building a network.In our social media workshop we already gathered together some ideas of how to do this but we still need to find ways to get people’s attention. The word is spreading… but we want more! We want to be different from other online charity sites and we need to pin down the main factor that makes us unique. But more on this later..!

Our programming wizards Miikka and Sam are hard at work with the actual web portal while the rest of us will concentrate on gaining more visibility for our community and solving still some other issues concerning transparency, among other things.  The next blog post will be about one way to do this – pitching it in front of Demola audience! Stay tuned!


A rough version of our web portal. What do you think?


Social Media Workshop

Following the next week on 30th March we had our Social media workshop with Tommi and his son Leevi. It was a regular meeting which was followed up by Leevi sharing his experience of social media. Leevi was promoting his website Game Development World Championship 2016 and further promoting it on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. He shared his experience of how to send Tweet’s make viral posts on the Facebook. It was good to have him on the team as it gave bird’s eye view of how to use social media for every member of the team. Now we can make effective use of it and promote our pages in better way.


We already started with creating Memes about Anna Project and sharing them on the website.



4 Tips For Using Social Media To Enhance Marketing


  1. Be original. Put your own point of view when you share posts or retweet. This way you add value to the content you are sharing.


  1. Use Humour. Including humour is an effective way of attracting attention of the audience.


  1. Use Video/Animation. Using animations such as gif and videos in your posts make it more attractive for the people as everyone likes to watch videos.


  1. Sending Right Messages to Right Platform. It is important to know what kind of content is viewed more on different social medias. Such as on Twitter it is a good way to post pictures and gifs, on Facebook videos are more popular.




UI Workshop

On the 21st of March we held a User Interface workshop at TUT. All of our members combined our imaginations together so that we can come up with some interface for our web portal. Each member of our group started up with blank page and a color marker. The goal was to brainstorm different ideas and perspectives of having an interface. After 10 minutes of brainstorming the sheet was rotated to the next member. So that the next member can highlight the positive things in the previous member’s idea and add something to it to make it look more complete.

Anna User Interface

To our surprise this turned out to be a good thing as we call came to know each other’s view of the user interface and how each member of the team feels about the project. In the end we all brought our sheets together and picked out the good points from everyone effort and merge them together on the white board. This user interface is something the user will see after they login to the Anna web portal.


Some pitching, jamming, and value creating

During the first weeks of our Demola project  we have had great opportunities to develop our skills in value creating and also to learn some new tricks. Our team participated in the Value Creation Workshop organized in New Factory on 19th February and there we had a chance to practice our own innovation skills and pitching, which means presenting your idea in a catchy way in a very short time. We had 1 minute in our disposal. It was a first time for many of us in the team, including me (Ida). The situation was a bit unnerving but at least it taught us many important things about a good pitch. For example, I learnt that you should always make sure that everybody is hearing your voice! A good pitch needs to be clear and it must have something memorable in it, otherwise it won’t catch the hearer’s attention. Our project manager Elisa won a price for the best feedback of the day, reminding us about the importance of giving and receiving productive feedback.

Our team also participated in Demola Jam #1 on 27th February. “Jamming” meant workshops and group activities that helped us to dig into our project a little deeper and think about the true values of our product. This happened in a very relaxed way, though, lying on a couch with a pen in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. All in all, the event was a good way for us to get some new perspectives to our project and chat a little with other groups and see how they were doing.

Last week we finished our Playbook (a document putting together all that needs to be considered for Anna Project) and had a meeting with our facilitator, project partner, and responsible teachers. In the meeting we discussed all the things we still have to take into consideration and evaluated the best methods to proceed in our project. Our facilitator Joonas advised us to keep creating prototypes and just putting different ideas on a paper because that would make it much easier to find the best solution. With our project partner Tommi we discussed the black boxes that our project has and we tried to make clearer the future procedures. The meeting was a good way for our team to clarify the next steps in the project.


Kick-off and the Beginning of an Adventure

Action speaks louder than words, so help others! Ever wondered if the money you donate really reaches the poor and the underprivileged people of the world? The answer is no, not all of the money being donated ever reaches the effected masses of affected population. Some of it is either being used in donating the money to the masses or collecting it, or it ends up as becoming operating costs of the donor agency. So what do we do in this case? The answer is simple – use Anna!

Demola spring 2016 began with the Marshmallow Challenge, where we as group members first met each other.Our group is quite diverse with interesting six individuals, two experts in web designing and web development, an emerging journalist, an individual with social work experience, social media marketing expert and an interesting individual having skills from both engineering and management.

Our task is to create a web portal where we provide the platform for individuals around the world to connect with each other. The individuals will be helping each other and not going through the traditional process of donor agencies. This will help reduce the overhead costs, increase the efficiency and transparency in the process leading to the money being directly given or spent on those in need. Tommi Rasila was the one who came up with this idea of providing transparent funding and donations to people around the world. He has a wealth of different experiences under his belt. Together with our facilitator Joonas, Tommi will be acting as our project coordinator and providing whatever help we need.

We will be using variety of different tools such as web development tools, social media marketing tools, Slack and Onedrive for project management. With different backgrounds and skills we all hope to make positive contributions to this project and turn this idea into a realization. A long journey always begins with small steps! So stay tuned for more updates as the project slowly gains momentum.


Here we are! From left to right: Abu, Ashhal, Elisa, Ida, Miikka and Samuel.